CJA Rebuilding for the Future

Allen Rafalson

We recently sent a letter forgiving the 42 men and women who are on our roster and have not paid their dues for many years. We offered them an opportunity to remain as members if they did so for this year only.

What we found was not surprising and, in a way, expected. Many have retired and moved to other parts of the country with only a handful maintaining their membership, while some seniors indicate their incomes are limited. Relatives emailed the names of those who passed away. Similar nonprofits in the Chicago-area have acknowledged dwindling memberships for the same reasons.

The results are not catastrophic, but certainly sends a message that the old guard is slowly disappearing and it’s time for renewal. Today still belongs to the members who remain committed to our Chicago Journalists Association. Tomorrow belongs to a younger generation of journalists who have recently joined us. It is Millennial Time. Get used to it. We are in a rebuilding mode and have already started.

Early last year, our board of directors created an Associate Board (AB) and appointed Stephanie Choporis its chairperson. A DePaul University graduate, she has done freelance reporting for a local magazine and newspaper and is currently enrolled at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism She is to receive her master’s degree this fall.

Since then, Stephanie has done a remarkable job of recruiting members from colleges and universities throughout the Chicago-area and downstate. Ab’s objectives are to increase awareness and understanding of CJA and to promote and plan social activities and events that allow passionate young journalism students and professionals to connect and share ideas. Its members, also responsible for planning and scheduling fundraising activities, held their first successful networking event recently.

Am delighted to announce Stephanie’s recent promotion to our CJA board, assuming the post of secretary. She joins Beth Kramer, another millennial who is a former reporter and director.

This transitional period for many millennials, however, will continue for several years and may even be longer. During that time they will go through a learning curve and frequently engage in an upward-downward flow of communications with our experienced members and leadership.

Must remind you that standing still is not what we are all about. No institution/company can remain competitive without diversifying its product line. Such was the case in 2001 when we voted to change the name of our organization in an effort to attract younger professionals, never forgetting the commitment of the men and women who founded the Chicago Press Veterans 76 years ago.

Our directors welcomed the challenge, reformatting our annual dinners and adding new honors, including the prestigious Daniel Pearl and Lifetime Achievement awards; expanding the categories in the Sarah Brown Boyden competition; replacing our quarterly newsletter with a contemporary website (Chicagojournalists.net); establishing a nonprofit 501 © (3) Charitable Fund , which will present its 10th $1,000 scholarship to a qualified college student this fall; a Hot Line (312-458-9792) to receive and answer calls.

This year, for the first time in our history, CJA received sales tax exemption status from the Illinois Department of Revenue, enabling us to make substantial savings at our annual dinners and additional events.

Once again, a reminder it’s time for change. Please join us as we continue to move forward. Thank you.